METALS-Copper rises on weak dollar, China monetary easing hopes

Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:24pm EDT

* China exports fall for first time in 17 months

* Dollar dips against a basket of currencies

* Coming up: FOMC releases minutes from June meeting at 1800 GMT

By Susan Thomas and Harpreet Bhal

LONDON, July 10 (Reuters) - Copper rose on Wednesday as the dollar fell and weak Chinese data stoked hopes of monetary easing in the world's largest consumer of the industrial metal.

Copper initially fell after data showed China's exports shrank 3.1 percent in June from a year earlier, the first decline since January 2012, while imports dropped 0.7 percent.

But the weak data sparked talk the People's Bank of China (PBoC) might ease policy to boost growth, which would lift demand for copper, used extensively in construction and power cables.

China is the world's largest consumer of copper, accounting for as much as 40 percent of global refined demand.

"The PBoC is likely weighing the benefits and costs of a benchmark rate cut, which we think may be increasingly likely given weak economic growth," Barclays economists said on Wednesday.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange, untraded at the close, was bid at $6,825, up from $6,730 per tonne at the close on Tuesday.

"The market suddenly has latched on to the idea that China can cut its RRR," Natixis analyst Nic Brown said, referring to the required reserve ratio, or the amount of funds that a bank must hold in reserve against specified deposit liabilities.

Such a move would be consistent with an effort to maintain stable growth targets in the midst of a campaign to rein in China's shadow banking sector, he said.

A weaker dollar also helped underpin copper prices, because it makes commodities priced in the U.S. unit more affordable for holders of other currencies.

The dollar fell against a basket of currencies ahead of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's June meeting and a speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke later on Wednesday.

The market will now be looking at China's second-quarter gross domestic product reading due next week. A slew of data this month is expected to show growth is grinding towards a 23-year low.

Some analysts expected base metal prices to steady this month after falls experienced in the month of June.

"The markets have moved quite a bit lower over the course of June and have likely priced in a good amount of the negative news that has come our way over the past few weeks," said Ed Meir, analyst at INTL FCStone.

"They are therefore due for a modest bounce from here."

In other metals, aluminium closed at $1,820 from $1,790, zinc ended at $1,898 from $1,869, lead closed at $2,072 from $2,037, tin ended at $19,550 from $19,305.

Nickel was untraded at the close. It was bid at $13,650 from $13,325 in the previous session.

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